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Prototype size and ability makes Murphy a draft sleeper

Louis Murphy says his friends call him "the comeback kid." Murphy has earned the depiction.

His St. Petersburg, Fla., high school team was 0-10 his junior year and 2-8 his final prep season -- but Murphy won two national championships at the University of Florida. He was kicked off the Gators and suspended for three games early in his career due to a marijuana charge -- but last season he was a team captain. His mother, his "heart," Filomena, died of breast cancer at age 47 on Valentines Day in 2008 and Murphy doubted he could ever deal with that -- but he has.

Little wonder that in a draft full of fabulous wide receivers, a draft that one day might be considered the most luxuriant ever at the position, Murphy is a sleeper, a riser, a comeback kid.

At Florida where Tim Tebow reigned at quarterback and where Percy Harvin (a first-round draft lock) was the eminent wide receiver and where so many Gators offensive players excelled, Murphy was often in the shadows. The Gators' spread offense hit quickly and stretched teams horizontally as much as vertically. It was far from a traditional NFL offense.

Consider that Murphy played in that offense in college and on a predominantly running team in high school. When scouts view this 6-foot-2, 208-pound receiver, they see size, they see impressive speed. They see a raw, NFL-prototype figure at wide receiver, the kind of player that can stretch defenses vertically, the type that can draw coverages his way. A big-play maker and just maybe a touchdown maker.

That is why the Eagles and Jets hosted him for visits earlier this week. It is why the Raiders, Buccaneers, Dolphins and Giants have shown particular interest and why most NFL teams have taken a strong look at Murphy. And then another.

"There are a lot of great receivers in this draft, but I feel I'm right there with the best of them," Murphy said. "I don't have the numbers like many of them do. But the big thing is I have a track background, I have run a best 40-time of 4.25 in the past and I've got the size the NFL likes. I feel blessed and it's hard to believe what is happening now. I feel the interest of the teams. I can't explain how that feels. I love the deep ball and that's my game. It's going to be a new day for me soon with a new team."

And a fresh chance.

Florida coach Urban Meyer has said that Murphy has come as far as "any guy I've ever coached." This player caught 75 passes at Florida -- 73 of them came in his final two seasons.

Scouts say Murphy's tools need refining. That he must rotate his hips better in and out of cuts. That he needs to become more focused in traffic. They are attracted to the fact that he has raw, special skills -- speed and size -- that cannot be taught.

He is the son of a minister and he is a player who stuck around for four years and matured at Florida. An NFL executive told me that of all the players he interviewed at the combine, Murphy wowed him the most with his presence, his enthusiasm, his positive attitude.

"I've come a long way since I spent that Valentines Day with my mother on her deathbed, when I looked in her eyes and told her, 'You know I love you' and she nodded her head yes," Murphy said. "I was a momma's boy. She was the most influential person in my life. I promised her I would make her proud. Not just in football but with my degree from school, in the community and in my walk with God.

"Teams are asking me what can I do in their offense, how do I feel I fit in their offense and what do I do against certain coverages. When it is all said and done, I want them to know that I want to win championships. I want to win, period. I know you lose some, but I want to be a part of a place where the wins are larger than the losses. I can play this game fast. I can get you some touchdowns."

That is music to NFL teams.

Murphy is not going to last beyond the third or fourth round in this draft. His upside, his speed is too great to ignore. His current NFL connections include Plaxico Burress and Giants receiver David Tyree, who both supported him during the time of his mother's death, and Cris Carter and Jerry Rice, who through Murphy's agents are tutoring him on the field.

"My family, myself, have been anointed throughout this process," Murphy said. "Sometimes you have to go through some hurt to be used greatly."

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